UPDATE: This article was updated with new and relevant medical information on August 7, 2019.
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When it comes to pain, our first instinct may be to just sleep it off or apply an anti-inflammatory cream for a quick fix. But, an alternative option is massage therapy. You may believe that this experience filled with lavender-scented candles and soothing bamboo music is for the glamorous, but massage therapy for pain is actually a doctor-prescribed solution.
According to expert Michele Bender at DoctorOz.com, massages can also help lower stress, depression, and anxiety, and even improve sleep quality as well. And, the benefits do not end here. According to 2014 statistics from the National Holistic Institute, “more than 50 million American adults have discussed massage therapy with their doctors or health care providers” in the year prior. And, 43 percent of individuals receiving massage therapy said they sought it out for “health conditions such as pain management, injury rehabilitation, migraine control, or overall wellness,” according to the Institute.
Massage therapy is evolving into an excellent option to alleviate pain. Consider relaxing and unwinding while ridding yourself of stubborn pain at the same time; this zen treatment can potentially work wonders on these five problem areas.
When experiencing lower back pain, it’s instinctive to massage the area yourself for short-term relief. But better yet, massage therapists can thoroughly treat your soreness to help alleviate pain in the lower back. According to a 2017 review by the Annals of Internal Medicine, massage therapy for low-back pain had more beneficial effects on short-term pain in eight out of nine trials when compared to other types of relief like acupuncture, exercise, physiotherapy, and relaxation therapy. A back massage can also potentially offer greater flexibility, as the pressure applied on your lower back relaxes your muscles and joints, MassageEnvy states.
The intensity of your pain determines which type of massage option is right for you. MassageEnvy states that a Swedish or relaxation massage works best if you are experiencing mild pain, whereas a deep tissue massage is for more severe pain to boost circulation. By helping to reduce chronic pain, it may decrease reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs for pain control.
If you wake up with a crick in your neck that just doesn’t seem to go away, massage therapy may be a fitting option. Neck knots that make you roll your head in discomfort are caused by poor posture and stress, according to MedicalNewsToday, so a relaxing massage is probably long overdue.
Harvard Health states that there are seven “faces” of neck pain, including muscle pain, muscle spasms, neck-related headaches, facet joint pain, nerve pain, referred pain, and bone pain. This exhausting list seems well, painful, but massage therapy — specifically, a trigger point massage, according to Cleveland Clinic — can help rid yourself of the neck pain that seems to be creeping up on you. This type of massage focuses on targeting tight spots to gently remove that knot-related pain in your neck.
Those suffering from osteoarthritis with chronic pain or limited mobility may find that massage helps their pain while improving their function. For those with arthritis, routine massage therapy can improve stiffness, handgrip strength, and overall joint movement, among others, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Because a deep tissue massage may cause “lingering soreness,” it isn’t the best option for those with arthritic pain, according to the Arthritis Foundation. A Sweedish massage is the most basic massage that focuses on five different strokes. And, the massage therapist can adjust the pressure applied based on your sensitivity to pain, so this type of massage is one to consider.
The National Institute of Health states in a 2018 survey that the cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, but massage therapy is one form of treatment that has found short-term success with some individuals. According to a 2014 study from the Institute, those with fibromyalgia who visited a massage therapist for more than five weeks saw improved pain, as well as less anxiety and depression.
There are plenty of different massages to consider based on your preference (including a hot stone massage, which seems super soothing). Everyday Health recommends trigger point therapy as its first choice. Trigger point therapy is a type of massage that focuses on both detecting and releasing trigger points (in other words, those areas that cause you a whole lot of pain). Since those with fibromyalgia symptoms have more trigger spots, trigger point therapy can help deactivate them as pressure is applied. Even Lady Gaga routinely turns to massage therapy to help manage her fibromyalgia when she’s not performing.
Sports Injury and Recovery
Regardless of fitness level, massage therapy can be essential for athletes experiencing pain. According to Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, massage therapy for athletes can “prevent such injuries that greatly affect flexibility, mobility, response time, and overall performance in athletic events.” It also enables additional relaxation and a refreshed mental state for competitions to reach their potential. Healthline states that a sports massage can be a full-body massage to gain plentiful benefits or it can be specific to an area of your choice. The level of pressure and style of strokes depends on your massage preference. The typical time for a sports massage is between 60 and 90 minutes, Healthline says.
A qualified massage therapist can help you develop a custom plan based on both your needs and your health and wellness goals. Talk to your doctor before scheduling a massage to make sure it’s safe for you. To locate a professional massage therapist, go to findamassagetherapist.org.
To eradicate pain, massage therapy is undoubtedly a versatile option — but it can also be an expensive one. If cost is an issue, you may be able to have a medical massage covered by your insurance if your doctor writes a prescription. There is a better chance for insurance to apply if you have an injury and are covered by workers’ compensation. This is good news, especially because Medicare does not cover this wonderful pain treatment.
If you discover that insurance is not a viable option, there are always deals online for less-expensive massages. You can even visit a massage school to discuss discount options, with some offering a massage for as little as $25. Whichever cash-saving tip you use, massage therapy will aid in taking that mountain of pain off of your shoulders.